Nancy Thalia Reynolds

Nancy Thalia Reynolds

me and my brother in our backyard in Brazil

me and my siblings

high school yearbook photo

St, Helen's Hall


back in the US after 16 years in Canada

July 2009

how i got here

I admit to being a contrarian and wayward thinker. What accounts for this? I blame my parents.

I'm a 5th generation Pacific Northwesterner on my father's side. His parents graduated from the University of Oregon; my grandfather taught at Stanford. My father earned a PhD from Harvard. On my mother's side, mine is the first generation to go to college. Her parents emigrated from England; my grandfather worked for a Brockton shoe factory but lost his job in the Great Depression.

Both my parents had disabilities caused by childhood illness. My father was unable to bend one knee (if that doesn't sound like a disability, try it out). My mother lost much of her hearing. Neither identified as disabled, so it wasn't until I was an adult that I recognized the costs and their courage.

Our Girl Scout and Brownie troop made toys for kids at the nearby Sao Jose dos Campos orphanage.
When I was 6, we moved to Brazil, where my father taught at an aeronautics institute. Our neighbors were expats from Europe. Henrich Focke, the German aviation pioneer whose Focke-Wulf fighter plane was critical to the Nazi war effort, lived next door. Czechs and other Europeans who fled the onset of World War II played chamber music together. My friend Aino was Finnish-Brazilian; her parents' common language was English. My friend Carol was Peruvian-American.

Moving back to the US was hard. I didn't remember America; I missed Brazil and hearing other languages. The kids in West Seattle thought living in other countries was weird. I thought not being interested in other countries and winter in December were weird. And why should the northern hemisphere get to be on top? Living in Brazil as a child and in Canada as an adult gave me an outsider's viewpoint that I cherish.

Maybe that's why I’ve tended to see the world upside down.
For many years my father read to me, my brother and sister at bedtime. Our favorite book was Rudyard Kipling's Just-So Stories. My siblings and I can still recite whole passages.

My father also thought up word games. In one we reconfigured the names of American presidents so as to make new ones: Herbert Delano Hoovenhower; Fillard Millmore; Grover Coolman. The possibilities were endless.

In another game, we made up culinary "treats," pairing two perfectly good foods to make a gross one: say, vanilla ice cream with pork gravy. We discovered that words can be turned around or inside out to make new ones. We learned that words and life itself are interesting when seen from a different viewpoint than the usual one.

When after 4 years I still failed to thrive in public school, I was sent to an all-girl Episcopal boarding school, St. Helen’s Hall (now Oregon Episcopal Schools and co-ed) in Portland, Oregon. I spent 3 very happy high school years there. My classmates and I remain close to this day.

I earned a BA at Sarah Lawrence College where I took one class in creative writing, from poet Jane Cooper. I was deeply intimidated by the presence of “real” writers there (one was Alice Walker) and gave into timidity, setting aside my creative writing ambitions for many years.

By and large, I felt like a misfit until the Counterculture arrived and saved me. The Counterculture valued not fitting in. And it didn’t matter why we didn’t fit in—whether we chose not to fit in or if we couldn’t, no matter how desperately we tried--we were equals. Being different was cool; conforming was lame.

I was one of those people.
Choosing not to conform meant throwing out a lot of things—respect for traditional values and parental guidance and wisdom, for example. And there was a price to pay for that. Some people paid with their lives. But for others, being freed from ironclad expectations they could never hope to live up to—about religious beliefs or politics or sexual orientation or ways of behaving and of expressing their individuality—saved their lives.

Post Counterculture

Selected Works

Literary Criticism
Mixed Heritage in Young Adult Literature
"Superb....This work is highly recommended for curriculum labs and public and college and university libraries." --ARBA
Travel
Inside Passage Activity Guide: Exploring Major Ports of Call in Southeast Alaska
What to see and do, where to eat and sleep, and how to fit it all into the time available: from 3-hour ferry stopovers and cruise-ship in-ports to multiday, independent travel.
Going Places: Alaska and the Yukon for Families
Attractions, accommodation, and dining assessed for family friendliness. Fine dining and late-night pub crawls, no. Sled-dog petting and laundromat locations, yes.
Going Places: Family Getaways in the Pacific Northwest
"If you have kids and you travel, you need this book." --The Seattle Times
Adoption and Parenting
Adopting Your Child: Options, Answers, and Actions
"A very good guide and overview of adoption. A good place to start." -- Michaele Sue Goldblatt, lifemilestones.com